With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, Iâ€™m wrapping up loose ends at the office while occasionally daydreaming about tomorrowâ€™s feast. Iâ€™m particularly excited about Brussels sprouts, of all thingsâ€”I bought one of those gorgeous branches of sprouts, still attached to the stalk like something out of a Dr. Seuss storyâ€“and Iâ€™m planning to roast them until they are sweet and delicious. Not a traditional Pilgrim dish, Iâ€™m sureâ€”nor did Brussels sprouts appear at the feast we Texans dub the â€œrealâ€ First Thanksgivingâ€”a meal celebrated near present-day El Paso in 1598, when Spanish explorer Juan de Onate and his expedition gave thanks for surviving their journey across the Chihuahuan desert.
But as much as tomorrowâ€™s meal is linked to traditional foodsâ€”turkey, cranberries in some guise, stuffing, pecan & pumpkin piesâ€”I always enjoy learning which dishes Americans with foreign backgrounds bring to the table. A friend with Cuban relatives, for example, will have a Cuban turkey (pavo) at their tableâ€”seasoned, she says, with garlic, cumin, oregano, and lime juice. Iâ€™d love to learn which variations youâ€™ll bring to your celebration of thanks.
As most of you know, when it comes to food, Iâ€™ll try most things at least once. Fried grasshoppers? Bring them. Tongue tacos? Yes, please, with extra cilantro. The promise of culinary exploration is one reason I like to visit Houston, especially when I have the opportunity to explore cuisines I know little about. I recently had the good fortune of exploring the menu at one of Houstonâ€™s most authentic Korean restaurantsâ€”Nam Gang Korean (at 1411 Gessner at Long Point; 713/467-8801)â€”with Houston friends, one of whom spent considerable time working (and eating) in Seoul a few years ago.
It was a Tuesday night, and we heard there was a tech convention in town nearby. That might explain the crowd: The place was packed with Korean businessmen, whoâ€”almost without exceptionâ€”were drinking copious amounts of the alcoholic sweet-potato beverage called â€œSoju.â€ We ordered some ourselves, along with a stunning array of raw meats and vegetables, which we cooked ourselves, to our liking, over a charcoal fire in the center of our table. Korean meals last for hours, and ours did, too. Great fun, and a novel approach to dinner that I hope to repeat soon.
And so this morning, as I think about this particular meal, and othersâ€”and the friends and loved ones with whom I share lifeâ€™s vicissitudesâ€”Iâ€™m feeling thankful. Have a lovely holiday tomorrow.